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My Personal Life Story

Chaplain Kurt “Mario” Haas

Dramatized version

Yodel If you could hear me talk, you would immediately detect a foreign accent. You see, when God created the world, He kissed it - and then He made Switzerland. That's where I'm from! [Click on the little Swiss flag at the beginning of this paragraph for a fine surprise.]

Matterhorn I left home at the age of 14, when my parents devastated me with the news of their divorce. This led me down a lonely road of alcohol addiction for nine years. Going from one country to another, trying to run from my problems, I found work as a professional waiter, bartender, and maitre d' in high class restaurants.

Finally, at the age of 24, I came to work at a steak house off Broadway in New York City. Thronged by the Manhattan crowds, I felt cut off and suffered the pain and heartbreak of loneliness.

One day, my sister in Switzerland sent me the book The Cross and the Switchblade written in the German language. I read it, only because I felt so lonely and was dying to read something in my native tongue. After reading the book, I immediately set out to fulfill my sister's request — to find out if this David Wilkerson, author of the book and founder of Teen Challenge, was for real.

Walking up and down Greenwich Village, I couldn't find the Catacomb Chapel, mentioned in the book. Finally, I thought to myself, “Aha, you see. This book is phony!” I was about to give up when I walked on further and stumbled across the Lost Coin. For some reason, they had to move the coffee house and had given the new coffee house a different name. Once I met " Mom" Wilkerson, I felt compelled to visit her at the coffee house again and again. My searching went on for eight long months. Little did I know that the Teen Challenge workers had a 24-hour prayer chain going for this stubborn Swiss.

Finally, one night, I stumbled down the aisle of Glad Tidings church, drunk as a skunk. But you know, when I got up from that altar, I was as sober as the preacher behind the pulpit.

I entered the Teen Challenge program, stayed on as a staff member, and later went on to complete my studies at Ozark Bible Institute and Ashland Theological Seminary, where I earned a Master's in Pastoral Psychology and Counseling. The degree meant little to me spiritually but has served as a door opener to opportunities for ministry in prisons where I otherwise would have been turned down.

In 1972, Barbara became my faithful helpmeet. (You can read the story of our “Miracle Wedding” here.) God has blessed us with five mighty arrows in our quiver. Together, we have served as a family, ministering one-on-one and in both church and prison chapel services to people who are hurting. With God's help, we will continue bringing deliverance to the captive!


Chaplain Mario, a Swiss evangelist, was converted to Christ from a life of alcohol addiction through " Mom" Wilkerson of the New York City Teen Challenge. He holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Psychology and Counseling through Ashland Theological Seminary and is a licensed professional member of the American Correctional Association. He is fluent in English, the Swiss dialects, German, French, and Italian.

Are you wondering why Chaplain Mario is affectionately known within the prison system as the " Chicken Soup" Chaplain? He's gained this title because of his popular, tearful readings from Chicken Soup for the Soul at the beginning of each of his chapel services. Inmates readily relate to these heart-warming stories of courageous people who climbed impossible hurdles, when life was against them - stories that reopen the heart and rekindle the spirit. There's hardly a dry eye after these stories, which God has used in a remarkable way to reopen the hearts of hardened criminals.

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Last updated March 23, 2024


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